Give me just four seconds!

On my way in to work this morning, a driver behind me at a four-way stop decided she couldn’t wait the four extra seconds for me to turn left first. She accelerated, cut the corner shallow to pass me in the middle of the intersection, and sped off in front of me. Half a block later she turned into her parking lot.

What?

Her actions easily could have knocked me off of my bike, which could have made my life either (a) much harder or (b) much shorter. All because she really needed to be in her parking spot four seconds before she would have otherwise arrived.

Drivers, I know how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a cyclist! We are slower than most cars. You have to allow ample space when passing us. We sometimes take up the whole lane — and we’re protected by law when we do. But we are still humans! Speeding around us, nearly hitting us or yelling obscene things doesn’t make the roads safer, it makes you look like an impatient jerk. Many cyclists are polite: if we realize we’re holding up traffic, we may pull over or wave you past. If there’s a group of us riding, we’ll do our best to form a single-file line as soon as we notice you behind us. But if there isn’t a safe way to do those things, it is our right to use the entire lane — and running over us shouldn’t be your reaction!

Next time you’re considering pounding the gas pedal, ask yourself: are those four seconds worth ruining that cyclist’s livelihood, or possibly killing her? Is there a safer opportunity to pass her later on the road? Can you take a deep breath in those four seconds instead?

If you can do that, I can much better uphold my end of the bargain. I can ride predictably, since I won’t be scared of you accidentally sideswiping me. I will use a bike lane when available, but if there isn’t one I will ride safely in traffic. If I do take the lane, I will do so in a safe and calculated manner; I won’t swerve out in front of you. And I will not yell obscene words at you.

The best way to treat a cyclists is as if she is another vehicle on the road. Would you pass another car that closely? No? Then don’t get that close to me, either. Would you charge into oncoming traffic because that car is driving slower than you’d like? No? That’s not how you should pass me, either! I have the same rights — and the same responsibilities — as any other vehicle on the road.

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One comment

  1. On the other side of the coin are the motorists who, thinking they are being nice, “wave” cyclists through stop signs and other traffic controls. Many times, I’ve had motorists stop suddenly in the middle of a roundabout to wave me in. Thinking that the driver was going to follow the rules of the road and behave predictably, my speed was optimized so that I could also follow the rules of the road and behave predictably – by slowing down, yielding, then following the motorist around. The car’s sudden stop caused me to stop suddenly, putting us both at risk of rear-end collisions (and me at risk of an ungraceful, failure-to-unclip topple). Then, there we were, both driver and cyclist stopped, contrary to the rules, each gesturing the other to continue. I finally road through and imagine that the motorist was probably cursing “stupid cyclists”.

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